A quick guide to what’s showing at the movies

THE Impossible (12A) - Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts) arrive in the tropical paradise of Thailand with their three sons, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast).

They open Christmas presents on the patio overlooking the sea, unaware of the horror to come. The following day, flocks of terrified birds take to the skies, heralding a wall of water that careens through the complex.

Maria and Lucas are carried away by the surge and when the water eventually recedes, they hobble through mud and detritus in search of survivors.

Meanwhile, Henry is forced to leave his two youngest boys in the care of strangers in order to learn the fate of his wife and eldest child.

Rating: Four stars

Quartet (12A) - Run with a gentle yet firm touch by on-staff medic Dr Lucy Cogan (Sheridan Smith), retirement home Beecham House heaves with eccentrics, including luvvie Cedric (Michael Gambon), who masterminds the annual fundraising concert attended by staff and wealthy donors.

Three of the residents - Reginald (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) - once performed Verdi’s quartet from Rigoletto as part of a celebrated quartet.

The unexpected arrival of the group’s fourth member, Reg’s ex-wife Jean (Maggie Smith), sends shockwaves through Beecham House.

Once Jean adjusts to the gentle ebb and flow of daily life at the home and rebuilds bridges that were burnt to a cinder, she rediscovers her passion for performance.

Rating: Three stars

Playing For Keeps (12A) -

George (Gerard Butler) used to have the sporting world at his feet as a professional footballer, with a beautiful wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel), and cherubic son, Lewis (Noah Lomax).

George allowed his celebrity to go to his head, and his roving eye eventually led to divorce.

Years have passed and now George has retired from the beautiful game and relocated to Virginia to reconnect with Lewis and perhaps win back Stacie. Unfortunately, she has a handsome boyfriend, Matt (James Tupper), and still bears the scars of George’s infidelity.

So the former player ploughs his energy into coaching Lewis’s little league team, and he instantly catches the eye of soccer moms Patti (Uma Thurman), Barb (Judy Greer) and Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But even with available women throwing themselves at his feet, George only has eyes for Stacie.

Pitch Perfect (12A) - Beca (Anna Kendrick) arrives at Barden College with dreams of becoming a music producer, to the chagrin of her father, university professor Dr Mitchell (John Benjamin Hickey).

He promises to fund a career in Los Angeles if she agrees to become involved in campus life. So Beca reluctantly signs up with all-girl a cappella group The Bellas, who flopped spectacularly at last year’s sing-off when soloist Aubrey (Anna Camp) projectile vomited over the audience.

Aubrey’s right-hand gal, Chloe (Brittany Snow), is open to Beca’s bold ideas to reinvigorate the repertoire but Aubrey insists they stick to her songbook of 1990s favourites. New girl Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) throws her considerable weight behind Beca but as the competition draws near, tensions are evident.

Rating: Four stars

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12A) - Director Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth in the first instalment of The Hobbit trilogy, based on JRR Tolkien’s classic novel.

Jackson begins his film at Bag End, with the elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm) penning a book to his cousin Frodo (Elijah Wood).

Rewind 60 years and we meet the young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) in the Shire as he encounters Gandalf The Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) and a 13-strong company of dwarves, who intend to reclaim their lost gold from the dragon Smaug in his mountain lair.

Bilbo agrees to accompany dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his troops on their perilous mission.

En route, the brave souls encounter elvish allies including Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), as well as wretched Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the corpulent Goblin King (Barry Humphries).

Rating: Three stars